Hagatna, Guam

Well I’ve now made it to Hagatna, the capital of Guam, after British Airways delayed my trip via Seoul and Saipan. I'm at the beginning of a two month trip into Oceania. And they have no idea where my luggage is.

More (Probably Boring) Ranting About British Airways

Our national airline has done its utmost to ruin my trip. They won’t speak to my travel agent, ‘on the grounds of security’ which means I have to call them, on international rates and wait 15 minutes minimum before anyone answers the phone. That’s if the call doesn’t get dropped. Then I speak to someone who clearly couldn’t care less and gives me a lot of misinformation. Several times. I’m told that my bag won’t have been located yet as I didn’t report it missing. I did on, Monday. They’ve already logged that. And then that it won’t be found as I haven’t described the contents. I did, verbally, but the ‘lady’ concerned didn’t bother to add it to the file. So far I’ve spent £175 on additional transport and hotels, £240 on changing my connecting flight, and about $200 on clothes, a sports bag to transport my stuff and toiletries. After much trial and tribulation I manage to get a clinic appointment – with the Seventh Day Adventists and waste another two hours of sunbathing time re-filling my prescriptions. That’s another $250.

The BA luggage tracing website just keeps telling me that my bag has not been located yet. So it’s miraculous when Korean Air (who eventually got me to Seoul) call to say they have my bag at Seoul. They promise to send it over on a flight that arrives in Guam at 1 a.m. and then to dispatch it over to my hotel. I leave at six in the morning to catch an 8.20 flight. This is going to be a stressful and close-run thing.

What to Do in Guam

Meanwhile, ('Finally?' you ask) what of Guam? It’s fortunate that I have read there isn’t a great deal to see. It’s much more built up than Saipan and is mostly known for the important US naval base here. My hotel is perched above Tumon Bay which is scenic, as advertised. The water is azure, framed by the reef and some cliffs topped by ‘Two Lovers Point’. Dotted round the bay itself are some sandy beaches and some monstrous concrete hotels. Tumon is Guam's economic centre; tourism makes up more than half the economy of the island.

The sea is filled with rash-suited Korean and Chinese tourists snorkelling frenetically in the choppy water. There’s no beach where I am, I have to settle for admiring the sands in the distance from my cabana. That’s ok, I don’t have the energy to actually do anything.

The Hilton doesn’t quite hit luxury hotel for me. My Tasi Club room is nice enough, with great views of the ocean. The breakfast here in the club is adequate, - not even proper squeezed orange juice? The food is expensive, but available 24 hours from the café. No room service! The pool area is again, adequate, but by no means luxurious, as are the pool cafes. Staff are mixed. Some very helpful, others less so, but that might be because in those cases their English isn’t very good.

Backing onto the hotels is a another sea - of malls and shopping centres. This is where Guan makes its money. There are arguments about what else to add. Casinos are in the frame.

Onwards and Upwards from Guam

Sleep came easily last night but didn’t last very long. I checked the time when I awoke and was surprised to discover it was only 11 pm. After that, it was fitful at best. A mixture of bodily confusion at the rapid time zone change, anticipation of early rising- 5.a.m- and worry as to whether my bag will actually turn up.  It does - hallelujah!

The United Island Hopper flight to Kosrae leaves late, as it takes an age to board all the returning islanders. They waddle on board with armfuls of carry-on baggage and the stewards puzzle over where to stash it all. There’s no leg room left whatsoever. As we gain height over Guam the view suggests that I’ve at least seen all that is worth seeing.

A Very Brief History of Guam

The island now known as Guam was settled by the Chamorro people, (of Malay origin) in about 500 A.D. It was first visited by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, while sailing for the King of Spain, and it became a Spanish colony from 1565, until it was captured by the Americans in 1898. Guam was occupied by the Japanese during World War II.

Is Guam Part of the United States of America?

  • Guam is officially an unincorporated and organised island territory of the United States in Micronesia.
  • Guam is of great strategic importance to the U.S.A. and is a key defence base.
  • The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. Indigenous Guamanians (pre Spanish origin) are known as Chamorros, after the first settlers.

Facts and Factoids

  • The capital city of Guam is Hagåtña and the most populous city is Dededo.
  • Guam is a coral island, so the beaches are powdered coral, not sand. Paved roads in Guam are made by mixing coral and cement together.
  • Ferdinand Magellan, initially called the island,' Isla de Ladrones', (Island of Thieves) because the islanders took whatever they could from his ship, (perhaps understandably), as payment for the food and water they had given the crew. Later, when sailors from Spain came to Guam, the native Chamorro people would run out to their ships to sell fruit, calling “Guahan!”“Guahan” means “I have,” but it sounded like “Guam” to the Spanish sailors, who named the island after this greeting.
  • Guam is also known as the Hub of the Pacific and the Island of Warriors. As American citizens the Guamanians serve in the country’s military, but at a rate three times higher than the rest of the United States. There's a film called Island of Warriors, that testifies to this.
  • A Japanese soldier hid in Guam’s jungle for nearly three decades. He was discovered in 1972 - he hadn’t realised that the war had ended.

What to Do in Guam?

Visit to Guam are mainly about outdoor leisure - beaches, snorkelling and hiking. Read about mine here - I had other things on my mind!

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